After speaking with the Prime Minister and the Conservative party whip, Alberta MP Peter Goldring will rejoin his party’s caucus – but is also considering a bid to become Edmonton’s mayor.
Mr. Goldring was cleared of a charge of refusing a breath sample on Thursday. Hours later, the long-time MP received a personal call from Prime Minister Stephen Harper to welcome him back into the Conservative fold.
Mr. Goldring said that while he admires Mr. Harper and appreciated the gesture, he remained wary. He wanted to first speak to the whip before rejoining the Conservatives, worried that the initiatives he had taken on during 18 months as an independent MP would clash with his Conservative role.
“The door is very much open. It’s just that I tend to be a cautious person. And I want to have full disclosure of everything I’ve been working on, so we don’t have areas of conflict,” Mr. Goldring said early Friday.
Later in the day, he spoke with whip Gordon O’Connor, and agreed to rejoin. “I told him I would be there on Monday at 3 o’clock,” Mr. Golding said.
Now that he is back in government, Mr. Goldring plans to fight tough provincial impaired-driving laws, saying he firmly opposes drunk driving but that the new laws miss the point by cracking down on those who have one or two drinks before driving. “They say don’t drink and drive. Well, that’s not really the way the world works. People drop off for a drink after work… but impaired driving, and drunk driving, certainly I disagree with that,” Mr. Goldring said.
Mr. Harper’s office had issued a statement Thursday welcoming Mr. Goldring back into the fold. “I look forward to once again working with Peter as our government continues to strengthen the economy and protect Canadian families,” Mr. Harper said.
How long Mr. Goldring stays in caucus is another question. Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has announced he isn’t seeking re-election this fall, triggering a wide-open race. Mr. Goldring said he’s considering running.
“The federal election is two and a half years away. That’s a considerable amount of time. There has to be some soul-searching on that,” he said, but the municipal election is “very, very close” and he’s considering his options.
“I understand the mayor’s seat is the one that’s really open,” he said, adding in another interview that “a job in downtown Edmonton certainly has an allure” rather than flying back and forth from Ottawa.
He also cited the case of fellow Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber, who quit the Conservative caucus Wednesday evening, saying the party had lost its way and was not sufficiently committed to transparency. Mr. Goldring praised Mr. Rathgeber, but doesn’t appear poised to join him and remain outside of caucus, so long as he is permitted to keep working on his current projects.
“I’m not prepared to give up on the [Conservative] party. After all, look where it is. It is the majority, it is the government in power,” he said.
Mr. Goldring had been facing a charge of refusing to provide a breath sample in late 2011, after he’d had a glass of wine and one beer during a constituency holiday party. He was cleared by a judge Thursday.
He had mounted a libertarian defence of his case, saying the police officer acted inappropriately and that he was not impaired. He has also attacked Alberta’s tough new impaired driving laws.
He plans on pushing to change the Criminal Code so that provinces can’t “piggyback” on it to implement administrative penalties for people who drink and drive but aren’t above 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the level of criminal impairment.
“I’m going to raise this issue. I want to go into the Criminal Code itself and see why the province is allowed to piggyback on criminal code legislation with provincial suspension legislation. That’s another civil liberties issue,” he said, adding stiff provincial penalties in Alberta that suspend a driver’s license until a court case is complete do away with the presumption of innocence. “You’re guilty until proven innocent in Alberta? Holy smokes,” Mr. Goldring said.
Drivers have a right to a 15-minute wait before giving a breathalyzer sample, Mr. Goldring said, in the event that they’d recently consumed alcohol that might still be on their breath, but isn’t enough to cause impairment. “There’s so much confusion on this. All I want to do is get rid of the confusion so people understand,” he said.